You might remember back when Facebook first started, you needed an email address ending in “.edu” to sign up. It was a space just for college kids, where you may have posted photos of keg stands or selfies with red Solo cups. You likely don’t need us to tell you that today, this is far from the case. Facebook is now a place where people of all ages come to share updates, and there are likely more people over 30 using the platform than there are under 21.
Today, this private space for teens and young adults has moved to other platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Kids want their own space to share content without their parents tuning in. And in order to do so, they are creating secret Instagram accounts called “finstas” to hide content from their families.
What Is a Finstagram account?
A Finstagram account, or “finsta,” is a secret Instagram account that kids use to show their real selves to a small group of friends. Unlike their real Instagram accounts, or “rinstas,” a finsta is meant to capture inside jokes, silly or imperfect photos and complaints about everyday life. Rinstas are usually more curated, parent friendly and always depicting your “best self.”
Finstagram and Cyberbullying
While finstas can show savvy use of social media — teens understand that colleges or potential employers might be searching for them online — they also can pose safety threats. Because finsta names are usually anonymous or hard to connect to the actual user, finstas often become a source of cyberbullying.
A majority of teenagers now experience online bullying, with rumors and name-calling as the most common forms. Teens might think of their finsta as a safe space, because they lock the account and accept a small group of trusted friends. But their friends can easily screenshot their photos and posts and text them to other people.
We recommend talking to your kids about social media and explaining that a locked account doesn’t guarantee privacy.
How to Know If Your Child Has a Finsta
Finsta names don’t usually include the user’s real name. Kids will create a name that only their friends can understand or decode. But there are a few ways you can find out if your child has a finsta, following these steps:
- Ask them. It doesn’t hurt to start with honest conversation. You can also use this question to talk about any concerns you might have with Finstagram accounts.
- Check their Follow list from their real Instagram. If you are following your child’s rinsta, chances are you can scroll through their list of followers, or Follow list, to find their finsta account.
- Log into their phone and check from the app. If you access their regular Instagram account from their phone, you can click on the username and see any other accounts they might be logged into from the app. If your child suspects you are looking for this, however, they might delete the account before you can access it.
- Look up their online profile. Run a people search on a database like Spokeo. You can pull up the social media profiles associated with a user’s identity and email address.
While the finsta trend can seem harmless, it can sometimes become an online Mean Girls-style Burn Book. Make sure your kids know the facts and how you expect them to behave on social media. Got more questions? Read more of our tips for keeping your kids safe online.
Katrina Ballard is a communications manager at a social policy research organization in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from American University.